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SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2012

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A look at Middle Georgia’s all-time greats

Bobby Bryant, Willingham, football/ baseball Bio: Bryant earned 11 letters as an athlete at Go to Willingham before macon.com heading to South for more Carolina, where photos of he was an All-ACC the players halfback. Bryant who were was an All-ACC chosen, baseball player as well as as a junior and Jonathan senior, and he Heeter’s was the ACC’s podcast. Athlete of the Year in 1966-67. He was drafted by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but he spurned those offers to play for the Minnesota Vikings. Bryant played 14 seasons for the Vikings, making two Pro Bowl teams. He led the NFC in interceptions in 1973, and he is second on the Vikings’ career interceptions list with 51. Bryant played on all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and played on 11 NFC Central Division championship teams. Bryant is in the following Halls of Fame: Macon Sports, Georgia Sports, South Carolina Sports and University of South Carolina Sports. Why we picked him: Bryant is probably the greatest athlete to come out of Willingham. He also is one of the best poundfor-pound athletes in Middle Georgia history. Others to consider A.J. Bryant, Peach County, football: Bryant was the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 after leading the Trojans to the state championship game. Bryant moved to wide receiver at Georgia, and he caught a touchdown pass against West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl. Ken Bonifay, Lanier, football/ baseball: Bonifay made the all-state team in 1963 before earning three letters at Georgia Tech in football. Bonifay also played baseball at Georgia Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets in home runs in 1966. Bryan Ellis, Peach County, football: Ellis played just one season at Peach County, but he sure made it count. He passed for 3,600 yards and 31 touchdowns to lead Peach County to the 2006 state championship. Ellis, who was the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year and The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 2006, played three seasons at UAB. He passed for 2,940 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. Johnny Henderson, Mount de Sales, football: Henderson led Mount de Sales to five total state championships in football and baseball. He made three all-state teams in football while posting close to a .500 batting average in baseball. The Chicago Cubs

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drafted Henderson in the third round in 1974, but he choose to play baseball and football at Georgia. Henderson had four interceptions in one game during his three years as a starting defensive back in Athens. Henderson spent some time in camp with the Baltimore Colts and Kansas City Chiefs following college.

Mike Jolly, Central, football Bio: Two years after Steve Dennis electrified Bibb County football fans, Jolly stepped under center for the Chargers and led the team on a magical run to a state championship in 1975, the first in Bibb County since 1948. He was unstoppable for much of his senior season, but Jolly’s postseason performance made him legendary. He picked up a long fourth down on the game-winning drive to beat Northside in the quarterfinals just two weeks after the Eagles beat Central by 13. In the championship game, Jolly led his team on a 76-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown with 1:23 left to beat Douglass. Jolly went on to play at Georgia Tech and Tennessee State, and he spent some time with the Memphis Showboats in the USFL. Why we picked him: Who has had a

Billy Henderson was a four-time letter winner in both football and baseball at Georgia, where he still holds the career steals record. University of Georgia

bigger impact on the football field in Bibb County since integration than Jolly? Probably no one. His performance during the 1975 season looms even larger now considering it has been 37 years since a Bibb County program has won a state title. When Jolly’s Central teammate Roger Jackson played for the Denver Broncos, he said he used to tell John Elway, “You remind me of Michael Jolly.” Others to consider Michael Brooker, Brentwood, basketball: Arguably the greatest basketball player in GISA history, Brooker made close to 40 percent of his 3-point shots in high school. He made national headlines when he made 87 consecutive free throws to set the national record. Brooker averaged 33.7 points and 10.5 rebounds as a high school senior. He holds program records in single-game points (52) and career points (2,501). Brooker went on letter four seasons for North Carolina. He now serves as the head coach at FPD. Terry Brown, Southwest, football: Brown was a doeverything quarterback for the Patriots before earning four letters at Tennessee. Jay Cranford, Stratford, baseball: Cranford was a part of four no-hitters at Stratford. He hit 13 home runs in 1988, and he holds the school’s record for career pitching wins. He

went 36-3 on the mound. Cranford was drafted twice, the final time by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. He also played at Georgia. Vince Datillo, Mount de Sales, soccer: Datillo was a four-time Telegraph All-Middle Georgia soccer player of the year before playing at Mercer, where he was the A-Sun Player of the Year in 1992. He was the fourth overall pick by the Dayton Dynamos in the 1993 National Professional Soccer League. Ed DeFore Jr., Lanier, baseball: DeFore went 15-2 on the mound as a senior before signing with Georgia. He was drafted twice, signing with the New York Mets after they drafted him 12th overall in 1971. Darius Dewberry, Peach County, football: Dewberry was a wrecking ball on defense for the Trojans during an all-state year in 2004. Dewberry earned four letters at Georgia. Moses Herring, BallardHudson, football: Herring might have been the first great black quarterback in Macon. He led Ballard-Hudson to a state championship in 1959. It was the school’s only undefeated season. Marques Ivory, Northside, football: Ivory never lost a high school game as a starting quarterback, leading the Eagles to state titles in 2006 and 2007. His most memorable game came at the Georgia Dome in 2007, returning at halftime of the state semifinals to help Northside to come back from a 28-7 deficit. Ivory had missed the previous six games with a broken leg. Ivory plays quarterback at Jacksonville State. Morgan Johnson, FPD, softball/basketball/track: Johnson played key roles in state championship runs in all three sports she played. She holds FPD’s career home run record. Johnson started in the outfielder during Valdosta State’s run to a national championship in 2012. Johnson won the Gulf South Conference Commissioner’s Trophy as the conference’s top female athlete after hitting .427 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI. Walter Johnson, Appling, basketball: Johnson may be the best player in Appling history, and he had a standout career at Fort Valley State. Larry Lawrence, Mount de Sales, basketball: An all-state high school player, Lawrence played at Dartmouth, where he made the All-Ivy League team in 1979 and 1981. He scored 1,000 career points and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1981. Lawrence was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, but he became famous playing in France. He averaged 32.4 points in 1989 with a French team. Tommy Reid, Willingham, baseball/basketball: Reid was a standout baseball and basketball player with the

Rams. He led Georgia in hitting in 1964 and made the All-SEC team in 1965. He later won the Georgia Senior Amateur in 2001. Justin Tyler, Jones County, baseball/football: Tyler was a tremendous two-sport athlete for the Greyhounds. Tyler hit more than 30 home runs during his final two seasons at Jones County. He played college football at Mississippi State before playing at ArkansasMonticello. Chris Wilson, FPD, football: Wilson rushed for 4,442 yards and 53 touchdowns at FPD. The all-state pick played at Georgia Southern and is a member of the Macon Sports Hall of Fame.

Billy Henderson, Lanier, baseball/ football Bio: Lanier’s two-time allstate running back made two All-Southern teams, including being named as the top player in Georgia in 1945. Henderson set the Macon touchdown record as a senior — the mark stood for 28 years until Steve Dennis broke it. Henderson was just as solid in baseball, playing in a national showcase at Yankee Stadium for Babe Ruth against a team coached by Ty Cobb. After being drafted by the Chicago Cubs, Henderson decided to head to Georgia, where he earned eight combined letters in football and baseball. He was a two-time All-SEC pick in baseball, leading Georgia in batting three times. He still holds the career record for steals with 91, and only two players in the past 62 years have stolen more bases in a season than Henderson’s 29 in 1950. Henderson led the SEC in hitting twice, and his .375 career average is sixth best in Georgia history. Henderson returned to Macon to coach at Willingham and Mount de Sales. He later won three state championships at Clarke Central. Why we picked him: This was such a difficult choice between two of the greatest high school athletes in Middle Georgia history in Henderson and Chansi Stuckey. Stuckey might be one of the five best players who didn’t make the cut at their number, alongside players like Norm Nixon, Jeff Malone, Al Wood and Roger Kingdom. It’s hard to compare players from completely different eras, and it’s also easier to pick the player who’s fresher on the mind. But Henderson is still one of the greatest baseball players in Georgia history, and he’s one of the best high school football players in state history. He rushed for more than 20 touchdowns in a season back SEE

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